Brown supporters' arrest: A 'gun in every room'
By KATHRYN MARCHOCKI
New Hampshire Union Leader Staff
18 hours, 13 minutes ago
CONCORD – One of four men accused of helping convicted tax evaders Edward and Elaine Brown avoid arrest allegedly had a "gun in every room" when agents arrested him in Vermont Wednesday, and another recently enlisted in the U.S. Army and had a pipe bomb and other weapons in his New York home when authorities searched it yesterday, officials said.
Two of the men pleaded not guilty in federal court yesterday to charges they provided guns or other supplies to the Plainfield couple and helped hinder federal agents from taking the Browns into custody. Two others are awaiting extradition to face charges here.
"We've said from the very beginning ... that people who may be aiding and abetting the Browns are subject to investigation, arrest and prosecution," U.S. Marshal for New Hampshire Stephen R. Monier told reporters after the U.S. District Court hearings.
All four men were arrested Wednesday in various states after a federal grand jury in Concord returned indictments earlier that day on charges ranging from the supplying the fugitive couple with food, weapons and armed security to conducting counter-surveillance of federal agents.
"This was a tax case, but the Browns have allegedly engaged with others and encouraged others to assist them in their ongoing obstruction of justice," Monier added. "Unfortunately, that only adds to his legal difficulties and to ongoing criminal investigations into their conduct."
The Browns, who were found guilty in January and sentenced in abstentia to 63 months in federal prison in April, have remained holed up in their fortress-style home despite repeated calls for their surrender.
They claim the federal income tax is not legitimate and have said they will die defending themselves and their home.
Robert Wolffe, 50, of Randolph, Vt., and Daniel Riley, 40, of Albany, N.Y., were arraigned in separate, brief hearings yesterday.
Cirino "Reno" Gonzalez, 30, of Alice, Texas, and Jason Gerhard, 22, of Brookhaven, N.Y., were arrested in Texas and Missouri, respectively.
They face extradition hearings in those states and are expected to be returned to New Hampshire in several days to face charges here, Monier said.
Gerhard, who recently enlisted in the Army, was arrested at Fort Leonard Wood, according to the U.S. marshal's office. Police and federal agents searched his Long Island, N.Y., home yesterday, where they seized a pipe bomb, rifles and other weapons, officials said.
Wolffe, who was arrested in Hartford, Vt., pleaded not guilty to accessory after the fact. He is accused of providing the Browns with a car used by the couple's supporters to run errands and gather supplies for the fugitive couple.
Wolffe also is alleged to have provided armed security to the Browns, conducted counter-surveillance of federal marshals and used his home as base to ship food and other supplies to the Browns, the indictment charges.
Wolffe allegedly had a "gun in every room" when agents came to arrest him, Judge James R. Muirhead said.
Riley, 40, who was arrested in Cohoes, N.Y., was arraigned on a four-count federal indictment alleging he bought firearms, brought firearms to the Browns' home, and publicly announced he would forcibly resist U.S. marshals' efforts to arrest the couple.
He pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to prevent federal officers from discharging their duties, conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States, accessory after the fact, and carrying and possessing a firearm in connection with a violent crime.
Riley also is charged with delivering fire extinguishers to the couple's house, because he thought federal agents would set it on fire, and equipping it with motion detector lights.
Riley and Wolffe were appointed lawyers and ordered held in U.S. marshal's custody pending a bail hearing Monday. Their trials are set to begin Nov. 6.
Wolffe's attorney, Paul Garrity, said he plans to argue Wolffe does not pose a flight risk or a danger to the community.
Yesterday's hearing drew a handful of the Browns' supporters to the courthouse. One wore a T-shirt saying, "I support Ed and Elaine Brown. Show me the law!"
Wolffe's wife also was there but declined to speak to reporters.
Monier would not say if future arrests are expected, though he said marshals are involved in a number of investigations.
While the Browns have drawn support from across the country, some relationships have ended bitterly after the Browns squabbled with bloggers, radio hosts and several spokesmen and assistants.
"Their support has begun to diminish by their actions and steps we have taken," Monier said.
Monier said federal agents have cut off the couple's telephone and utility service and stopped mail deliveries.
"We are going to take a slow, deliberate, methodical approach to convincing the Browns that they need to do the right thing and surrender," Monier said.
While he said "we are keeping all lines of communication open,' he would not say if one of his agents continues to maintain regular telephone contact with the Browns.
Monier said concern over "hazardous conditions" believed to exist at the Browns' property are another reason why supporters should stay away from their home.
He warned supporters and news media against attending a "Fall Freedom Fest" planned at the Browns' home tomorrow.
"I would strongly urge you not to go there," Monier said.
Like Riley, Gerhard and Gonzalez lived with the Browns at various times this year and allegedly bought firearms, brought firearms to the Browns' home and publicly announced they would forcibly resist U.S. marshals' efforts to arrest the couple, the indictments allege.
Gerhard also is accused of buying a M44 rifle, three Ruger rifles and a high-powered Serbu .50 rifle from New Hampshire firearms dealers and tried to have firearms accessories he bought from a Maryland dealer be delivered to the Browns' home.
He also is charged with accepting delivery of a Bushmaster rifle.
Brown, a retired exterminator, and his wife, Elaine, 66, a dentist, were found guilty in January of plotting to hide their income and avoid taxes on the $1.9 million Elaine Brown earned between 1996 and 2003.
The four arrests drew reaction from one Brown supporter, who said the action amounts to "tyranny."
"You have arrested four innocent men," Shaun Allen Kranish wrote on MakeTheStand.com.
"It appears to me that you're digging your graves even deeper," he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.